76% of hospitalised Covid-19 patients experience lingering symptoms, according to a new study

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  • Although the short-term effects and symptoms of Covid-19 are well-documented, long-term effects are largely unclear
  • Studies on the lingering symptoms of Covid-19 are limited and have used a small sample size and inadequate follow-up duration
  • New research published in The Lancet is the longest cohort study on record  aiming to better understand the long-term health consequences of Covid-19

The short-term health effects and symptoms of Covid-19 are well-understood. However, researchers are only beginning to understand the long-term health consequences of Covid-19 one year after the first reported case of the virus.

New research published on 9 January in The Lancet medical journal is among the few studies that have aimed to describe and better understand the long-term health consequences of Covid-19 and the associated risk factors. 

The study was conducted at the Jin Yin-tan Hospital which was the first designated medical facility in Wuhan, China for Covid-19 patients, according to the researchers. 

A total of 1 733 of discharged Covid-19 patients from Jin Yin-tan Hospital between 7 January and 29 May 2020 were enrolled in the study. Moreover, a follow-up study was conducted with the patients between June and September 2020. 

The participants underwent a series of questionnaires, physical examinations, a six-minute walking test and blood tests by trained healthcare professionals to gather the data. 

Lingering symptoms

The researchers found that 76% of the patients in the study reported experiencing at least one Covid-19 symptom six months after being infected with the virus, the study states. 

Moreover, the researchers explain that 63% of patients reported experiencing fatigue or muscle weakness after being discharged from the hospital. 

A further 26% of patients experienced sleep difficulties, and 23% of patients reported experiencing anxiety or depression upon the follow-up study, the researchers explain. 

These findings, according to the researchers, are consistent with a previous long-term follow-up study on SARS, where Canadian researchers concluded that 33% of survivors reported experiencing a significant decline in their mental health one year after becoming ill.  

Women are more at risk 

A previous 3-month follow-up survey of Covid-19 patients in Wuhan found that symptoms of fatigue, shortness of breath and alopecia (a condition that causes sudden hair loss in circular patches) was more common in women than in men. 

Some of the factors listed by the researchers to cause negative mental health consequences of Covid-19 include: the immunological response, prolonged intensive care stay, social isolation and stigma. 

Calls for ongoing care and further research

The researchers stated that the findings from the study highlight the need for ongoing care among patients who have had severe Covid-19 infections and conducting longer follow-up studies. 

“These results support that those with severe disease need post-discharge care. Longer follow-up studies in a larger population are necessary to understand the full spectrum of health consequences from Covid-19.” the researchers conclude.

Image credit: Getty Images

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